If I am a vegetarian, do I need vitamin B12 supplementation?

Cobalamin is one of the most important nutrients essential for the body. So much so that not having the right amount is a serious health hazard. One of the groups at risk of suffering from this deficiency is those who enjoy vegan diets but… and if I am a vegetarian, do I need to supplement myself with vitamin B12?

Vegetarianism and veganism are healthy lifestyles, both physically and psychically as well as socially and environmentally. Unfortunately, this type of dieting causes some deficiencies in relation to this particular micronutrient. With the help of science, any attempt to respect ideological diversity is welcome, and one of the cases is that of B12 supplementation for vegans and vegetarians.

Is vitamin B12 important for the proper functioning of the body?

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As soon as you know what the properties and functions of the B12 are, you’ll realize how important it is.

Features Functions

The main functions of vitamin B12 in the body, both physically and mentally, are as follows.

  • Cardiovascular health: Although it is not one of the best known functions of this micronutrient, it is certainly one of the most important. Along with folic acid, vitamin B12 plays a leading role in lowering homocysteine levels in the blood, one of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease if found at a high level.
  • Depression: It can significantly help to improve the symptoms of certain mental illnesses such as depression, among others.
  • Immune system: In general, this vitamin B complex vitamin acts on the proper functioning of the immune system, both in older adults and children.
  • Nervous system: It produces neurotransmitters and improves their condition.
  • Energy production: It is not surprising that B12 is known as the vitamin of energy and is that one of its main functions is to provide more vitality and energy to the body.
  • Production of red blood cells: An essential function for life, because these are the ones that allow oxygen to be transported to the cells, which are in charge of carrying out each and every one of our organism’s functions.

What are the consequences of cobalamin deficiency?

As we have pointed out, the deficiency of this vitamin B complex is a serious disease and the medium- and long-term consequences can be harmful to health.

Once absorbed by the body, it is stored in the liver, where it has a useful life of two or three years. Thus, due to a deficiency of vitamin B12, in many cases the symptoms do not become noticeable until after this one; however, during this period of time, functional damage has already been caused in the body and we have not even noticed it.

There are several symptoms related to the lack of vitamin B12 in the body. The first warning signs are usually fatigue, weakness, headache, limb numbness, and pallor. If this situation is not resolved, it will worsen, leading to a loss of brain mass and a degeneration of cognitive functions.

If I am a vegetarian… Do I have adequate levels of vitamin B12?

If I am a vegetarian, do I need vitamin B12 supplementation?

Vitamin B12 should generally be taken through food. There is one point that is very important to keep in mind. Foods containing this vitamin in sufficient quantities to cover the body’s daily needs are only and exclusively of animal origin. While it is true that there are some foods of plant origin that contain it, it is in very low amounts that do not cover our needs at all.

For this reason, it is clear that vegetarians are at high risk of micronutrient deficiency. Although this type of diet includes foods of animal origin, such as eggs, cheeses, dairy, honey etc., in most cases, and according to recent studies, it has been evidenced that:

People who follow a correct vegetarian diet do not manage to reach the required minimum levels of B12, therefore they require supplementation to avoid taking risks.

In the case of vegans, the situation worsens because they do not eat a single food of animal origin; although this does not mean that omnivorous people will enjoy good levels of B12, since their diet may be deficient.

If we refer to the data, it is estimated that:

  • 92% of vegans suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency to a greater or lesser extent
  • 71% of vegetarians on a vegetarian diet were found to be deficient in B12
  • In the case of lactovegetarians, the percentage is 64%.

The results for the age group were as follows:

  • Children: 25-86% were deficient.
  • Adolescent population: between 21% and 41%.
  • Elderly people: between 11 and 90% of the population
  • Pregnant women: about 62% of the population

The deficiency figures for this micronutrient increased for the vegetarian population that followed this type of diet at an early age, compared to those who began to follow it at later ages. The same for vegetarians strict in comparison to who eat eggs or dairy products, the former have a higher percentage of deficit than the latter.

These figures are for people on this type of diet who do not take any vitamin B12 supplement to cover this deficiency.

What foods with vitamin B12 does a vegetarian eat?

Vegetarian Diets and B12 Supplements

Vegetarians take only two types of animal foods.

  • On the one hand, dairy products.
  • And the eggs, on the other hand.

In the case of dairy products, foods rich in vitamin B12 contain strong cheeses and cured ones. The amount of this nutrient varies depending on the type of cheese in question. The most important vitamin B12 is Swiss cheese, with 3.3 micrograms per 100 grams of product. It is followed by the emmental and the camembert. Yogurts are also a good option, with 0.6 micrograms per cup for skimmers. Milk gives us 1 microgram per glass if it is skimmed.

As for eggs, vitamin B12 is found mainly in the yolk, with 1.3 micrograms per large piece.

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Let’s go now with vegetable foods that contain vitamin B12. As we have pointed out, these levels are insufficient for the organism. Still, it’s not superfluous to comment on them to help design good diets.

There are some types of algae that are edible. In some countries, especially in the West, they are not very well known as food, but they are gaining ground by leaps and bounds between vegans and vegetarians. The type of seaweed that contains the most algae is known as slake with 63 micrograms at 100. Nori seaweed follows; it contains 30 micrograms per 100 grams of dry product.

There are some vegetables that contain traces of vitamin B12. They are simply traces, so their input is very scarce. Some of these vegetables are soya bean sprouts, broccoli or asparagus.

Mushrooms are also a food of plant origin with a certain intake of vitamin B12. The trumpet of death and the chantarella provide 2.2 micrograms per 100 grams of dry product.

How to supplement a vegetarian diet?

As you can see, the amount of vitamin B12 provided by plant-based foods is very low. Therefore, it is necessary to supplement a vegetarian or vegan diet. Below we explain the two great options you have to do it.

Fortified foods

More and more people are choosing not to eat food of animal origin. Thus, in the market we can find some foods fortified with vitamin B12; however, nowadays the variety is still very scarce, especially in European Union countries. The downside of these fortified foods is that the content of simple sugars is high, so in the long run it can also be harmful to health.

We find, for example, enriched soy drinks and some shakes or breakfast cereals. It is important to note that these fortified foods do not contain vitamin B12 from animal foods at all, so they are suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Cobalamin in this case is created in the laboratory, with bacteria.

Supplements

In the case of vegan and vegetarian people, the best option to provide the body with the amount of vitamin B12 it needs, and thus avoid problems in the medium and long term for lack of this nutrient, are supplements.

They are inexpensive and easy to purchase. If you don’t have any kind of absorption and nutrient synthesis problem, the best thing is to bet on vitamin B12 pills or tablets, but always in cyanocobalamin version, since it has been shown that this form of B12 has a very good absorption and can not concur in damage by too much B12 in blood, as it can happen with the formats of methylcobalamin supplements.

You can choose daily or weekly supplementation. Generally, weekly pills are more advisable since it is more comfortable to take the pill on a single day, and it is also sufficient to cover the body’s needs. These include between 1000 or 2000 micrograms. Although they have absolutely the same positive impact on the body as a daily pill, the minimum recommended dose for one B12 tablet per day is 25 mcg.

Some dietary tips for vegetarians and vitamin b12 in food

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, we recommend that you have regular check-ups to make sure that your body does not suffer from a lack of any nutrients essential for its proper functioning. Analyses are very important in all population groups, but especially in people who do not have food of animal origin because they have so many key nutrients for the body.

Blood vitamin B12 tests may give incorrect data. As already mentioned, there are many plant foods containing vitamin B12 analogues. The data obtained in the results of an analytical test do not discriminate how much is analogous or real.

In addition, a healthy lifestyle is highly recommended. This means a diet as rich and varied as possible and, in addition, the practice of frequent physical exercise.

Conclusion

Of course, the answer to the question that has brought you here about whether I need to supplement myself with vitamin B12 if I am vegetarian is yes. Even if you take some food of animal origin, these will not give you the right dose of cobalamin you need and, as we have explained, the food of plant origin that contains this nutrient do so in very low quantities that in no case cover the needs of the body.

Lack of this nutrient is a relatively serious disease that can lead to chronic diseases such as dementia. Therefore, our recommendation is that you opt for vitamin B12 supplements as a help to your diet without animal foods.

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We always choose to give truthful and contrasted information so that you make the most appropriate decision according to your characteristics and situation. What is your opinion on this matter? Do you have doubts? Advice? Comment!

If you found it helpful or have any questions, please comment and share, thank you! 😃

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